The General's Black Walnut Guidon

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Project by WMD2006 posted 01-30-2014 11:48 PM 1883 views 3 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

To talk about walnut in the context of my woodworking adventure, I’d have to literally start at the very beginning.

Shortly before I was born, an ice storm brought down a massive black walnut tree on a family member’s farm nearby. When my parents helped with the cleanup, they were given the wood in the hopes that it could be turned into lumber and one day be made into a desk for me. About fifteen years later, I don’t think anyone would have guessed that I was the one who’d be using it to build a computer desk in preparation for high school.

It was the biggest project I had undertaken to date and has since been surpassed by a number of others, but it still stands out as a monument to my progress.

A significant way into a career with the US Air Force later, walnut has again been a defining piece of the adventure: Over the last few years, I’ve been asked again and again to build flag cases and shadow boxes for retirements and going-away gifts. While each one of them has been an honor, they don’t stand out equally. I turned a simple one around in three days but also built one for my grandfather, a lifelong carpenter and WWII Air Corps veteran, upon his passing (using wood from the private stock of black walnut plus my great-grandfather’s tools; think about that for a second).

Last month I was asked to build our Wing’s going-away gift to our 2-star General. This was the first time I had been asked to build anything for a flag officer so I wasn’t going to cut any corners.

The requirement was to hold four fragments donated from each of the wing’s four groups. I came up with what I thought would be an interesting design, however, I didn’t count on not receiving all of the parts at once (the last one showed up 3 days before it had to be finished), nor that they’d be different sizes. I originally wanted the cross, which I had never seen before in a shadow box, along with four smaller boxes tucked into each corner.

Nearly every tool in the shop saw service in its construction, along with almost every skill in the LJ dropdown box. Each of the five boxes was constructed with through-dovetails for strength but since they all had different depths, each one required separate settings and needed to be built individually on the jig. Face frames made of highly-figured walnut required flawless miters and were attached to the front of each box. The circles behind each coin were turned using a screw chuck on the lathe, with thin lines on each face to prove they weren’t built on a router. Additionally, each coin had to be individually sized to fit.

The intarsia flag/guidon was similar to what I built in 2012 for another commander, but this one tripled the number of pieces and added a dozen tiny stars to be shaped. Each piece was stained or dyed individually and then glued into place.

The lines burned into the back are from the prelude to Aer Vis, the Air Force tribute written by TheWarriorSong, which I highly recommend to all of my fellow veterans.

All told, this was one of the most technically demanding projects I’ve undertaken to date under an extremely pressing schedule and the realization of a goal to build something for a flag officer. I don’t think it could be a better testament to walnut or American woodworking without integrating the stock from a M1 Garand.

Thank you for your interest.

-- -MDWhite

9 comments so far

View AlBCuttnWud's profile


729 posts in 3569 days

#1 posted 01-31-2014 01:33 AM

Great job, very unique. I really like the grain of the walnut.

-- -Al, Oak Harbor, WA

View BigDumbAnimal's profile


65 posts in 2685 days

#2 posted 01-31-2014 02:00 AM

Great work, that beats the heck out of anything I’ve ever seen at a Marine Corps retirement. I especially like the way the flag turned out. Favoriting this one for sure.

-- Semper Fi BDA

View wiser1934's profile


530 posts in 4025 days

#3 posted 01-31-2014 02:46 AM

spectacular!!! that is a work of art. something to be proud of. thanks for posting

-- wiser1934, new york

View Dark_Lightning's profile


4207 posts in 3987 days

#4 posted 01-31-2014 03:41 AM

You ought to get an M1 Garand for the work! Did you do this for free? If so, I have a simple family coat of arms that I am sure, since I am a Navy Vet from the ‘70s, deserve. All kidding aside, I hope you were appropriately compensated for your efforts! And I’ll make my own coat of arms, eventually, in my free time when I retire.

-- Steven.......Random Orbital Nailer

View sgmdwk's profile


308 posts in 2751 days

#5 posted 01-31-2014 04:51 AM

Fantastic work – and as one who spent 17 of my 24 years in the Army working in two and three-star headquarters, I can imagine all the “helpful” suggestions and guidance offered you along the way.

-- Dave K.

View hunter71's profile


3535 posts in 4065 days

#6 posted 01-31-2014 10:51 AM

WOW, what a great honor, and a great job.
Did you enter it in the Winter Walnut event?

-- A childs smile is payment enough.

View Roger's profile


21030 posts in 3683 days

#7 posted 02-01-2014 01:38 AM

Way kool.

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed. [email protected]

View woodbutcher7's profile


43 posts in 2581 days

#8 posted 02-01-2014 06:23 AM

From a retired Army officer. One hell of a fine job. What are the peices you put in the four corners

View WMD2006's profile


95 posts in 3102 days

#9 posted 02-01-2014 11:54 PM

Hunter, yes I did enter it (or will, once the website gets working again). Wish me luck!
Butcher, The four corner boxes have leftovers from some tests the wing performed. I think it’s got a bomb fragment, towed decoy, piece of a shot down QF-4 and a blown-up something else. :D Hooah!

-- -MDWhite

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